March 31, 2022

Authors Recommending Authors with Marshall Thornton, Barbara Wilson, and Elizabeth Sims

Authors Recommending Authors with Marshall Thornton, Barbara Wilson, and Elizabeth Sims

Ep:109 In the first of a new monthly segment, three authors who were guests on the podcast, give book recommendations for others to enjoy. This episode includes guests featured in March 2022. They are Marshall Thornton, Barbarba Wilson, and Elizabeth Sims.

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Disclosure: To cover the cost of producing Queer Writers of Crime, some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, Brad will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Lightning Strikes by William Kent Krueger: https://amzn.to/3DmTD1X
A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski: https://amzn.to/3iO2XTc
Thus Was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell: https://amzn.to/3JQOiT2
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith: https://amzn.to/35lUgMI

Author's Websites
marshallthonrtonauthor.com
barbarawilsonmysteries.com
elizabethsims.com

Authors Amazon Pages
Marshall Thornton: https://amzn.to/3iN1rko
Barbara Wilson:  https://amzn.to/35lQkvp
Elizabeth Sims:  https://amzn.to/3J4bKv7

Brad's Website: bradshreve.com

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Transcript

your sleuthing cap feel nailbiting dread and face heart racing fear. This is Queer Writers of Crime, where you'll get book recommendations and hear interviews with LGBTQ authors of mystery, suspense and thriller novels. Here's your host, Brad Shreve.

Brad Shreve:

Hi, this is Brad and I have a new feature here on Queer Writers of Crime. This is the very first month that has been done. Each month, the fourth week, this will normally be on Tuesday, but this month since it just started back from hiatus, we're a little bit off. But the fourth Tuesday of every month will be recommendations for books by guest who had been on the show. I haven't figured out what to call it yet. I'm thinking celebrity recommendations. I don't know if you have an idea. Good idea. Let me know I can't think of anything yet. But we'll call it something. But I do wanna let you know that I mentioned on the show that I have recently moved from LA out to the California desert. And unfortunately, I don't have my studio setup yet. So the sound will sound a little different with each of the guests. I think Barbara Wilson, she gives a great book recommendation. But we even had to use something like WhatsApp, something crazy that you normally wouldn't use for a podcast. Good thing if she sounds great. I sound kind of muffled. But it's okay. It's not bad. It's just not radio quality. We'll put it that way. So sit back, enjoy the show. And you'll have to let me know if you like it. Okay, Marshall Thornton, it's your turn, you are the first guest on the show that is going to be part of our monthly book recommendation, the celebrity show, and I am anxious and excited to find out what book you are going to recommend. And I think you're going to give me more than one today, aren't you? You hinted at that. Yep.

Marshall Thornton:

I will. Okay, let's hear them. Okay. So the first book I want to recommend is the mainstream mystery actually by William Kent Krueger, called Lightning Strike. And I think this book is quite interesting for a couple of reasons. He writes a series that he's been working on since 1989, with a character named Cork O'Connor Mystery Series. Corcoran. In northern Minnesota, I think it is, and right by the Canadian border. And this book is a prequel to that and takes place. Gosh, 20, some years before that series even starts. And I thought that was really intriguing. And I enjoyed the book. And I one of the things that I enjoyed a lot about it was that it takes place near an Indian reservation, and the character comes from a mixed family. His grandmother is a full blooded, Native American, are first people. And so his he's a quarter. And I just thought he did a really great job of writing the book at the, at the intersection between two cultures. And as someone who kind of does that a lot. You know, I thought that was very interesting. And I enjoyed that. The second book I'd like to run is The Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski. Which is sort of a survey of queer history since the country began, and kind of in shows the relationship between queerness and our history and how it's always been there. Quite a lot, and I recommend it. And I wouldn't be surprised to find it on a banned book list somewhere.

Brad Shreve:

I am absolutely certain you are right. And actually, Michael Bronski is the author and I say I guess Kim Nielsen. And what I find interesting is they don't just do queer history. They they drive conservatives crazy, because they haven't just wrote the queer history of the United States. They did the disability history, the United States, the indigenous people history, the United States, the African American and Latin X History of the United States, and the black woman's history that states, how dare they were all the white men. straight white men made this country strong. So good recommendation, I'm actually I've been planning on picking that one up, and just let folks know that notice. Marshal did not either of those were neither of those were LGBTQ mysteries. And I've had actually quite a few authors say Do I even have to do a mystery and I said, you talk about you recommend whatever you're passionate about. And that is because a good book is a good book. And I think it's important to be Go Go beyond our boundaries slowly. So thank you, Marshall.

Marshall Thornton:

Sure. Thank you

Brad Shreve:

Barbara Wilson, what author Are you going to recommend today?

Barbara Wilson:

British author named Sarah Caudwell.

Brad Shreve:

And what's the name of her book?

Barbara Wilson:

Thus was Adonis murdered.

Brad Shreve:

Thus was Adonis murdered. Murdered. Oh, okay. Do tell I want to hear about this.

Barbara Wilson:

Well, it's a classic mystery novel by the British author Sarah Caudwell, and this book was published originally in 1981. Though it's always been in print since then. It was the first of only four mysteries by Caudwell. And her novels often hinge on the British tax code, which doesn't sound very sexy, but it's part of their comic charm. It also enables her to write about money and devious characters in international settings like Monaco, the Channel Islands in the Caymans. So you think trust funds and offshore accounts and murder of course, the books are filled with hilarious portraits of eccentric characters, including a group of young lawyers or barristers, who occupy offices or chambers at Lincoln's Inn in London and their Desmond Ragwart, Timothy Shepherd, Selena Jardine, Michael cantrip and Julia Larwood, who is the brilliant tax lawyer who's the hapless heroine of Thus Was Adonis Murdered. But this narrator of the series is Hilary Tamar, former tutor of one of the barristers and now a dawn at Oxford. And Hillary tomorrow's gender is never spelled out Hillary being both a male and female name in England. This makes Hillary one of the first or the very first non binary detectives in crime fiction. The lack of a male or female gender and the polished old fashioned and distinctive voice of Hilary Tamar are two of the pleasures of this series, I think, especially when they're contrasted with some of the Wilder goings on, and I'm fascinated that in 1981, Sarah Caudwell included not one, not two, but three gay and bi men in her novel with another couple of possibly queer chaps to boot.

Brad Shreve:

Especially that early to have non binary.

Barbara Wilson:

I know, I know. And I don't think we even had a term

Brad Shreve:

for it back then.

Barbara Wilson:

We didn't people thought it was clever. And what happened is that people would say, they would just assume Hilary is a woman I did for a long time. Yeah. And man men had assumed that it was a man, especially in England.

Brad Shreve:

Interesting. Yeah. I wasn't aware that Hillary was a male name in England.

Barbara Wilson:

Yes. I think one of the polar explorers was named Hillary, Sir Edmund, Hillary, but that was his last name. But anyway, I've heard it use occasionally. Like Francis is used more frequently in England to anyway the plots of Cauldwell's books are very intricate. A lot of the action happens off stage in the form of letters that different characters write to the group of friends and to Hillary Tamar. And they're also telephone calls, telegrams and telexes in these first novels, given that in the early 1980s, not only were there no personal computers or email, but faxes hadn't been invented, either. So Hillary Tamar, like the scholar they are has to sift through different accounts of witnesses to make sense of the mystery, which often includes a murderer or two or three. And in this book in Thus Was Adonis Murdered. Julia Larwood, one of the young barristers has gone off to Venice on an art lovers tour. Julia is beautiful. She knows everything about tax law, but she's also forgetful and clumsy, always falling over things. Losing her way in cities can't even read a guide book. She's impetuous and passionate. The object of her infatuation in this book is The Reluctant, bisexual, Ned, and unbelievably handsome young man on the tour, who turns out to work for the Inland Revenue in England, our IRS and whose dead body is found in the room where he and Julia took a siesta Julius copy of the British Finance Act being found near his body, she's promptly taken off for questioning by the Italian police. The mystery turns on tax law and trust and on people who are pretending to be someone else than who they really are.

Brad Shreve:

This it's funny because it does sound not so sexy, but also very intriguing.

Barbara Wilson:

Yes. Yeah, it is. You wouldn't think taxes were so fascinating, but it's actually very funny. It's quite a satiric take off on on lawyers and on accountants,

Brad Shreve:

the article recently I think it was in Writer's Digest magazine, and it said something like, let's start being more creative when it comes to motives. And it gave a long list of, you know, they said, nobody ever seems to use these. And I was like, wow, they're really examples. Of course, I can't find the article anymore. But

Barbara Wilson:

that would be interesting to read. Actually.

Brad Shreve:

If I ever find it, I'll send it your way.

Barbara Wilson:

Well, you know, they say that money and in love are the two things that usually motivate death. And so definitely, taxes are definitely about money, or lack of money. Anyway, um, well, the first half of the book is mostly told in the form of letters from Julia in Venice, to her fellow barristers in London, which is also a technique you don't see used a lot. Hillary, being on a visit from Oxford often joins their young friends in a bar near Lincoln's Inn. It's called the corkscrew where they gather to listen to Selena reading aloud Julius letters about her attraction to Ned, and her problems with others on the tour, including the ex military major Bob, who could well be an art thief to Americans, a sculptor and an antiques dealer. The second half of the book takes place mostly in London, where the art lovers tour group returns, while Julia has to remain in Venice under suspicion. And most of the barristers play a role in solving the mystery. But it's up to Hillary tomorrow to pull all the pieces together. So I find Sarah Cauldwell's books very funny. Oh, did you ever thought I

Brad Shreve:

was gonna see this sounds as much like the soap operas as it does a mystery?

Barbara Wilson:

Yeah, a little bit.

Brad Shreve:

There. Yeah. There's a lot of characters and a lot of entanglements going on.

Barbara Wilson:

Yes, yes. And a lot of joking as everyone tries to offer their opinion and Hilary Tamar, who is a true scholar tries to put it all together. So I think Sarah Cauldwell's books are very funny and specifically British way I either literate and witty with high and low jokes about classical literature, which is probably where the title comes from. Tax law and sex. Although the mannered style of the letters probably isn't for every reader, especially those who prefer straightforward dialogue and lots of action. These mysteries also surprised us. They have pratfalls disguises high jinks and occasional violence. There's quite a bit of casual romance and drinking for Julia and her friends it consume a great deal of drink as they banter and spa are in their chambers or in the corkscrew. And just a little bit about the author. Sarah Cauldwell was the pen name of Sarah Coburn, who came from an aristocratic family. She died in 2000 at age 61, and she was herself a barrister specializing in tax law, I guess no, there's no surprise there. She later took a job at Lloyds Bank and work with clients and international tax planning, before finally quitting to work on her last novel. It's not certain that she was a lesbian, but some people think so. And there's definitely a queer vibe in all of our books. I did meet the author once at a mystery convention in London looking pretty Butch and smoking pipe. She signed a copy of she signed a copy of my novel for me this novel in particular, and I still have it. I just read the other day. And once again, I laughed aloud at the really bitchy sniping and the close friendships of the characters, and also at the end genius plotting.

Brad Shreve:

Well, it's funny, I was just talking to somebody the other day that in novels a mystery can be just a mystery in movies and television, mysteries and suspense thrillers get mixed in together, it's rare to see a mystery that doesn't include a car chase or person being chased down in some manner. And you can add tension in a lot of ways other than that, but they make it very simple. Whereas in a book, a mystery can just plain be a mystery. I like the way this sounds if that is the case.

Barbara Wilson:

Yes, it is an intellectual mystery. So you know, it's not to say there can't also be some violence and tension in these puzzle mysteries. But the emphasis I think, is on the intellectual pleasure of trying to figure it out. And her plots are so devious. You really can't figure them out. Which I love. I a lot of mysteries, I think, yeah, yeah, I know who did it. And it turns out that's who but in her mysteries, even if I haven't read them in a while, I still think oh, yeah, that's really clever. I didn't figure that out. Oh, good job.

Brad Shreve:

But she plays fair and gives you all the clues.

Barbara Wilson:

She does. Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

Oh, wow. That's pretty cool. Yeah, yeah, if she gives it as long as they play fair, that's okay. Marshall Thornton talked to him a few times about it. And he said, and I'm sure he's right, no matter how well you hide the clues or whatever, somebody somebody's going to figure it out, even if it's a good guess. And they're just certain. They're right, even though they don't necessarily have to prove. So he stresses the story. And the characters are extremely important. And if they figure it out, they'll keep reading, if that's true, and I think that's very, very true.

Barbara Wilson:

Yeah, I would agree. This the story and the characters are the most important. But I think that writers who are clever, sometimes introduce a parallel plot, or something early on, that they don't seem to follow up on. And if you're not paying attention, you won't realize that actually, that's going to play a crucial role in the denouement later. So that's, I think what I mean by clever is that, yes, you notice certain things that she lays weight on, you don't know if they're red herrings or just something that she says in passing, but in fact, usually, everything that she's put into the book has some bearing on the plot.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, I know, Agatha Christie is known for Oh, to look into a drawer and notice and name off several items in the drawer, and others say several items, one of them is pro the clue, which I kind of think is a little unfair, but it's there, you can't argue it. What's the name of the book again,

Barbara Wilson:

Thus Was Adonis Murdered.

Brad Shreve:

You know, my only problem with having added more book recommendations now that the show is back is I keep getting more and more books that I want to read. And I have so little free time to just, you know, I read for, you know, when a guest comes on, fortunately, in the vast majority cases, I enjoy them. But it's very rare that I can see a book on the shelf and just say, Oh, I'm gonna read this right now, because I'm always reading the others. So I'm gonna I'm gonna put this on my pile as well.

Barbara Wilson:

Oh, good. I'm glad I think you won't be sorry. And you, you know, just take a few hours and you'll be sucked right into it, I'm sure.

Brad Shreve:

Well, it sounds good. Well, thank you very much. Sounds like you got a good one to everybody's list. Yeah,

Barbara Wilson:

thanks, Brad. This is always fun. I was really glad to go upstairs and I'd forgotten that she had signed it to me. So I remember back to Bouchercon 1990 in London, and her sitting there with her pipe.

Brad Shreve:

So Elizabeth Sims, I am so excited because based on your experience, I cannot wait to hear what your book recommendation is today.

Elizabeth Sims:

All right Brad. I'm going to talk about a classic an old classic. And it is Patricia Highsmith's. The Talented Mr. Ripley. She was a queer writer, although she wasn't. She wasn't really out about herself most of her career. And she wrote tremendously intelligent novels and The Talented Mr. Ripley is, in my opinion, having read pretty much all of her books, her best. It is a really intelligent psychological thriller. So Highsmith, you know, she she gets the reader invested in the success of this cold blooded but somehow likable, Tom Ripley and his strange unrequited love affair really with this with his friend Dickie Greenleaf, and one of the ways Highsmith does this, I think is that the reader can easily imagine how nice it would be to have riches without doing much work for them. And when Ripley is under suspicion, we sweat right along with him, and we find ourselves rooting for him. It's similar to what Mario Puzo did in The Godfather where we root for Michael Corleone and we root for the whole Corleone family from you know, at one point or another most of the way and this is this crime family that gets ahead by you know, murder and deception and, you know, crime and dishonesty. And, and yet, we root for them because the author has made has done such a good job in making those characters. So relatable Highsmith herself, I mean, she's long dead. She wrote these books, mostly, I think in like the 50s. And she she was kind of an expat. I believe she lived most of her life in Italy, and I think she died in Switzerland. I cannot I'm not positive on that, but, and she was a misanthrope. She didn't like she didn't like almost everybody. She had bad things to say. She said some nasty things about blacks, about Jews, about men about women and she was like, really? She was not well liked at all. And so one could easily decide Well, I gotta cancel her because she you know, she was she said nasty things. But I mean, you know, you go down a real rabbit hole with that but the which bits really she could really rate and then in the the emotional impact of Ripley I think is just so, so strong and she wrote a bunch of other Ripley books other other where that character goes on. And I don't think any of them are as strong as the first The Talented Mr. Ripley. I might add that if you're also a film buff, there are two films that I have seen based on that book one is the 1960 French film called Purple Noon. And that's worth getting in and watching because of how they treat it. This is a European Film Company treating this story that happens in Europe. And then there's the 1999 version called The Talented Mr. Ripley, and that's the one with Matt Damon is Ripley and Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf is also is super Excellent. And the different endings of both those films are quite different, and so they're fun to watch one after the other. I might just throw in one last thing about from Highsmith, The Price of Salt is pretty good in that it was a real groundbreaking book. That's so The Price of Salt was her was, frankly, lesbian lesbian novel, was published under her pseudonym Claire Morgan, back in the day. So that became the film Carol, that was kind of big, a few some few years back. And that's worth reading also as another psychological story, not a thriller, per se, although there's a fair amount of tension and suspense, and it's been recognized as the first, you know, novel about openly lesbian women with a happy ending.

Brad Shreve:

So I'm glad I haven't seen the movie yet. It's on my it's in my queue. And I'm gonna let it stay there until I read the book. Super. We all know that 99% of the time the the book is better than the movie, but not always true. And actually something really they can't be compared. They're two different mediums.

Elizabeth Sims:

Right, right. Well, thank you. You're welcome. Thanks for letting me spew about about these books.

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